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Pirates Should Go Bold And Trade For Jose Quintana

One of the most underrated players, Jose Quintana, would check a lot of boxes for the Pirates. Photo by Jesse Johnson/US Presswire

One of the most underrated players, Jose Quintana, would check a lot of boxes for the Pirates.
Photo by Jesse Johnson/US Presswire

A couple of weeks ago, Steve wrote an article about the Pirates’ needs and posited that a #2 starter was one of their chief needs.  The Pirates have a #2-level starter in Francisco Liriano, but he’s chosen to pitch like a #4/5-level starter this year and has left a gaping void behind Gerrit Cole (who himself needs to rebound from his injury and pitch like the #1 starter he is).

The Pirates have two #2-quality starters on hand in Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow, but both of them may need to have their innings monitored by the end of the year.  So that leaves the Pirates in a pickle.  If they can’t get Liriano back on track quickly before the trade deadline and they can’t rely on Taillon/Glasnow to fill the innings void, they’ll need to seek help from outside sources.

Enter the Chicago White Sox and Jose Quintana.

Quintana has been one of the most underrated pitching assets in MLB for the past couple of years.  Many have not known about him because he pitches for a non-glamour club.  He’s a true definition of a #2-level starter.  In 2016, he’s upped his game and could almost be considered a borderline #1.

Entering Tuesday night’s action, the White Sox have faltered to a 45-47 record after getting off to a blistering start in April.  The White Sox are in dire need of a rebuild, as they have a bunch of overpaid and underachieving veterans.  The White Sox offense is especially pathetic, as they don’t have a single everyday starter with a wRC+ (offense created above league average) over 109.  Their pitching is the only reason they’ve gotten this far and it has taken them to 6 games out of the 2nd wild card spot with five teams ahead of them.

Here’s the kicker about Quintana — he’s insanely affordable, thanks to a team-friendly deal signed back in 2014 for 5 years/$21M.  Quintana is only being paid $5.4M this season (approximately $1.8M remaining on deadline day) and then $7M in 2017 and $8.85M in 2018, with two club options for 2019 ($10.5M) and 2020 ($10.5M).  So for $2.5M less than what the Pirates are paying Jon Niese this year, the Pirates can pay that to Quintana next year for much better potential production.

Quintana was recently ranked the 25th most valuable trade asset by Fangraphs.  I have to disagree slightly with the methodology of Dave Cameron, as he shows the Team Control WAR total as 15.5, which includes the club option years that may or may not get picked up, but he then only shows the guaranteed dollars as the 2017-18 seasons, plus the buyouts.  To me, you have to be consistent and reflect the Team WAR in the same timeframe as the guaranteed money; you’re only assured of paying him in 2017-18.

So for this article, I’m going to assign Quintana the following WAR totals over the guaranteed portions of the contract:

  • 2016 — 2.0 WAR (as forecast from ZIPS on his Fangraphs page for the remainder of the season)
  • 2017, age-28 — 4.5 WAR
  • 2018, age-29 — 4.5 WAR

That’s 11 forecasted WAR.  At $8M/WAR, that’s $88M of potential value.  And in the same timeframe, the Pirates would only pay Quintana $19.65M ($1.8 remaining in 2016, $7M in 2017, $8.85M in 2018, $2M in buyouts).  That gives Quintana a surplus value of $68.35M.

From our surplus valuation model, here are the values of various tiers of top-100 prospects, using the Baseball America lists.

Tier Number of Players Avg. WAR Surplus Value % Less than 3 WAR % Zero WAR or less
Hitters #1-10 54 15.3 $73.5M 12.96% 7.41%
Hitters #11-25 42 13.0 $62.0M 26.19% 7.14%
Hitters #26-50 89 8.1 $38.2M 47.19% 29.21%
Hitters #51-75 102 4.9 $22.4M 56.86% 46.08%
Hitters #76-100 102 4.5 $20.6M 63.73% 39.22%
Pitchers #1-10 22 14.6 $69.9M 4.55% 0%
Pitchers #11-25 43 8.3 $39.0M 44.19% 27.91%
Pitchers #26-50 85 6.4 $29.8M 41.18% 23.53%
Pitchers #51-75 104 3.7 $16.5M 69.23% 44.23%
Pitchers #76-100 113 3.5 $15.6M 65.49% 43.36%

If you were to go for a strict 1 for 1 trade, like what the Padres did with the Red Sox in the Drew Pomeranz trade, that would equate to a hitter ranked #11-25 or a pitcher ranked #1-10.  As it just so happens, the Pirates have one of those in the recent BA midseason Top 100 update in the form of Tyler Glasnow (#6).  Austin Meadows was just outside the #11-25, as he was ranked #10.  That puts him into the extremely valuable #1-10 category with a surplus value of $73.5M, which technically would be considered an overpay…something hard to imagine this risk-averse front office doing.

But that’s essentially what it would cost in a 1 for 1 deal — Meadows or Glasnow.  That’s a hard pill to swallow.  But if the Pirates were to package multiple prospects together like Josh Bell (#38, $38.2M) and Kevin Newman (#51, $22.4M), plus a kicker like Steven Brault or Brandon Waddell, you have a package of roughly equivalent value.

If the White Sox were to admit to themselves it’s time to rebuild, this is a good deal.  They still would have a good pitching staff headlined by Chris Sale, with Carlos Rodon also in tow.  Brault (or Waddell) wouldn’t replace Quintana’s value directly, but they would be cost effective #4/5 starters.  Josh Bell would give them a legitimate, young middle-of-the-order hitting to alternate between 1B and DH with Jose Abreu.  If the Pirates truly believe he can’t play 1B defensively, trading him in this package makes perfect sense.  The White Sox don’t have a lot of young hitting talent, but they recently called up SS Tim Anderson.  Kevin Newman could slide over to 2B, where some talent evaluators think he will end up anyway, and make a solid middle infield combo.

For the Pirates, it’s obvious what Quintana would bring to the table.  He slides right in behind Cole as the #2 starter now and moving forward.  Taillon and Glasnow would fill out the next two slots in the rotation.  That leaves Jeff Locke and Francisco Liriano to battle it out for the fifth spot, both this year and beyond.  The Pirates could flip one of them in the offseason for each payroll flexibility or to fill a different need.

There are some that would blanch at giving up this many perceived prospects, especially after Josh Bell’s splashy debut cameo.  But reading the tea leaves tells me that the Pirates just don’t trust him defensively…anywhere.  I don’t think Newman has the bat to be a major league starter and Brault/Waddell are nice, but expendable.

This move helps the Pirates make a run for the wild card in 2016, but it also gets their offseason shopping started, too.  This year’s free agent pitching is awful, even in the bargain aisles that the Pirates frequent, so this allows them to trade for present and future.  If the Pirates were in the market to be bold, this is the move to make.

About Kevin Creagh (206 Articles)
Nerd engineer by day, nerd writer at night. Kevin is the co-founder of The Point of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Creating Christ, a sci-fi novel available on Amazon.

19 Comments on Pirates Should Go Bold And Trade For Jose Quintana

  1. I like the thought of going out and getting an under-the-radar #2, but I would balk at the price if I were GM. The fan base has been waiting for JBell for what seems like a decade. He finally comes up, he rakes, he excites everyone, and then if they ship him off (even if it’s the right play) there could be riots in the streets.

    Also, I think Newman’s too close. The kid’s looking like Jordy’s heir apparent and if he continues to rake, he could beat down the door in ’17.

    I know it’s a pipe dream to catch lightning in a bottle again, but I would like the team to go after ’16s version of JA Happ. You can’t mortgage ’17-’18 and beyond to fight for a WC spot this year. We’ll see where this team stands in the next 10 days, b/c they’re facing weaker opponents. But, if they can string something together, go get reinforcements, but I don’t think it can be at the expense of the near future. Give me 6 years of rolling Newman/Bell out there every day over Quintana. That’s my $0.02, anyway.

    • Kevin Creagh // July 20, 2016 at 10:36 AM // Reply

      Your counter-argument is what is so fascinating about trade season — the delicate balance on a knife’s edge on what people are willing to give up and their goals.
      For me, I’m a Flags Fly Forever guy. Hypothetically, if the Pirates make this trade and win a WS, no one would (or should) care if Josh Bell or Kevin Newman turn into All-Stars for the White Sox.

      You have to give something up to get something back. As great as it was to get Happ at just the right time, that’s a crapshoot and they got extremely lucky. With Quintana, you aren’t mortgaging 2017 and beyond because you have him under control for those years, plus two potential option years. You would have Cole/Quintana as 1-2 for Cole’s remaining time here (if Q’s 2019 option was picked up).

      Mercer is also still under team control for 2 more years. Neither he nor Newman are uber-shortstops that move the needle like Seager, Bogaerts, Correa, etc. They’re just steady.

      • Cannot disagree w/ any of your counter points! I, too, believe that flags fly forever, but unfortunately I’m more of a “have my cake and eat it too” fella.

        I think my thoughts stem from growing up w/ sustained Steeler success. I want/expect those guys over at Heinz to win a championship every year, and I’m disappointed when that goal is not achieved. Obviously, the Pirates play under different rules/budget constraints and baseball is an entirely different animal. But that’s just for a frame of reference.

        I’d like to consider myself relatively rational, and I usually see trade suggestions that are along the lines of Chris Archer for Alen Hanson and a bag of balls. This trade is not that. This is a legitimate trade that could get done, I’m just saying that if I’m NH, I’d politely pass.

  2. I can’t see them giving up on Bell. Look at how long they stuck with Alvarez and he never showed the offense that Bell has. I don’t think they give up any middle infield depth either. JHAY may or may not be a starter. Mercer is not really an impact player and wont be around for his last year or 2 arbitration. If the Sox decide to rebuild, we can offer larger number of players with MLB potential that are close (Hanson, Ramirez, Brualt, Kuhl) as well as some lower level players. That could allow them to quickly get younger, stay affordable, deal off bad salaries and rebuild the organization.

    • Kevin Creagh // July 20, 2016 at 9:58 PM // Reply

      What you’re proposing is a pu-pu platter of quantity over quality. Ramirez is a 4th OF, Hansen a utility infielder, Brault/Kuhl #4/5 starter. Quintana needs to yield at least 1-2 impact players. He’s really good.

      Mercer is not going to price himself out. This was his first year of arb and he got $2M. He’ll probably get around $4M and $7M his next two years. The Pirates were willing to give Clint Barmes 2 yr/$13M, they’ll keep Mercer.

  3. What about Cutch for Quintana? Cutch’s value’s dropping rapidly but he still has massive name recognition. Slide Marte to CF and Bell (&Joyce &Frazier) to LF.

    • Kevin Creagh // July 20, 2016 at 9:55 PM // Reply

      I think moving McCutchen in any form or fashion in 2016 would be selling incredibly low on him. This is a terrible year that I expect him to rebound from in 2017. After the 2017 season, I’d move him at that point on his $14.5M club option.

    • Why would the rebuilding White Sox want Cutch?

  4. “I vote we be BOLD; Let’s do “Wanderin'”!! *slaps fist into opposite palm*

  5. Just curious, do you have any updated models of what Grade B/C prospects currently cost in surplus value. I know it’s been since 2009 when they were put together, but I feel like you could adjust them to tune of inflation of 2009 vs. 2016 for the Top 100 cohort, no?

    • Kevin Creagh // July 23, 2016 at 8:26 PM // Reply

      I do not have those values. I just never had the inclination to go through Sickels data. I just assume like $8m for 2nd tier, $4m for 3rd tier

  6. I agree with everything you’ve said but I would substitute Meadows for Bell. I also think that the same package could be enough to get Julio Teheran from Atlanta.

    • Kevin Creagh // July 24, 2016 at 9:06 PM // Reply

      If you sub in Meadows, it skews the balance to a huge overpay in the White Sox favor, as prospects #1-10 are as close to “gold” as there is in the prospect game (again, as shown in the chart)

  7. As a Sox fan the trade proposed would fall short. The deal would start with Bell, Meadows & 2 low level prospects. Quintana’s value is two fold, team friendly controllable contract & is still young (27). If & when he becomes available there will be a bidding War that will drive his value even higher…Rangers, Red Sox, & Astros have equal or greater prospects & are in need of pitching. I agree w/the writer blow this team up & start collecting prospects to build around. The Sox lack of Offense (or offensive) has screwed Quintana time & time again, use today’s game as a perfect example. Leading 4-1 thru 8innings vs the Tigers, enter David Robertson in the 9th…3 solo homers later & he gets another (among many thru out his Sox career) no decision. If I’m the Pirates go get him, he’s a class act & great in the clubhouse. He’s one of two Columbian ball players in MLB & took English lessons so he could communicate w/the coaches/front office personnel/teammates & media. I’d hate to see him go, but he’s a great trade asset & nothing short of the right package will net him. Again, the Sox don’t have to trade him. Rooting for your Buco’s!

    • Kevin Creagh // July 24, 2016 at 9:08 PM // Reply

      While you are correct that a bidding war could ensue, I’ve shown in the chart how valuable Meadows potentially could be and that would skew the balance greatly to the White Sox if it were Bell+Meadows, even if the low level prospects you mention are pure lottery tickets that are outside the Pirates Top 10 prospects.

      You are also correct that the Sox don’t HAVE to trade Quintana; they could still pursue an offseason trade (or none at all).

  8. The chart is great I like the breakdown, I’m sure that took some time. As you’re well aware prospects are just that, unproven & over valued by all teams especially in this era. All I can tell you is what is being discussed around here & it will take a Kings ransom for Sale & Queens ransom for Quintana. As per usual there’s always a ton of smoke screens & hot gossip (garbage) deals around this time of year. Anything less then two top prospect (MLB ready) & at least one or two low level prospects. As the days get closer to August 1st the rumors will heat up & should be interesting considering all the teams that are still in the chase.

    • Kevin Creagh // July 25, 2016 at 8:11 AM // Reply

      There have definitely been some recent big returns for players (the Kimbrel package and the Shelby Miller package), but Neal Huntington is notoriously tight-fisted with prospects. If you’re looking for Bell + Meadows for Quintana (or subbing in Taillon or Glasnow for one of those two), you won’t extract it from him.

      My personal theory, as espoused in the MLB Surplus Value article linked, is that you should hold on to all hitter and pitchers in the #1-10 range, have a tight grip on hitters #11-25, and pretty much be fine with moving everyone else.

  9. James Ferguson // July 25, 2016 at 12:03 PM // Reply

    I like Quintana, but after knowing that we never really strike those kind of deals and in my own opinion, don’t believe we need to. We know that it’s going to be a WC spot or miss the postseason. I believe the Pirates will trade for someone such as Jeremy Hellickson from the Phillies. Rental player, but maybe enough to help solidify the rotation. Sub 4 ERA this year and career.

  10. I don’t envy being a GM, there’s so much emphasis on Prospects over the past 5yrs. Eventually they have to develop into MLB players, most of them will never make it to AAA. The Sox have a ton of issues, most if it stems from their front office & their many misses: Adam Dunn, Adam Laroche, Jeff Keppinger, Jimmy Rollins, Mat Latos, the list goes on & on. They need to have baseball personnel in place to make smart & effective moves for the future. The current front office roster should move on to greener pastures: K. WIlliams, Rick Hahn & Robin Ventura. Get young & build thru the draft & sign the occasional veteran to help mentor & develop young talent. As i see it now, i’d be shocked if either Sale or Quintana gets traded. At the end of the day there’s only 2 teams that have the stones to pull that trade off: Boston & L.A…w/Texas as distant possibility. The Pirates would be smart to at least make a play for Quintana as you mentioned in the article, the worst they can do is ask & hear No thank you.

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